Queer Adventures in Cali, Colombia
2019 April — Paradise. Literally paradise is the first thing that comes to mind to describe this trip. This is because we had the coolest person show us around. A 60-something year old gardening professor that practices Buddhism and has kind of a Master Jiraiya vibe going on. She’s like the cool and eccentric grandmother I wish I had. Before this post becomes an homage to her, let’s talk about Cali, Colombia.
We took a flight to get to Cali from Ipiales. We had plans to stay with a friend, so we went straight to their place after we landed. It was such a beautiful place with a balcony and an amazing view. One of the best things about Cali is all the trees. As a result, there’s a wide variety of bird species. It’s super fun to just look out and see how many different kinds of birds you can spot and hear throughout the day. We tried so many delicious fruits throughout the entire trip. Fruits that we had never seen or heard of before.
Once we got settled down at the place, we decided to do a little bit of exploring. Our location was in a residential area. Pretty out of the way from the main hub of activity. A really cool thing we learned was that we were right next to an abandoned women’s prison that was being repurposed to be a shopping center. So we had to get an Uber to get anywhere we wanted to go. We started off by going to San Antonio Park. We were chilling in front of Iglesia de San Antonio and admiring the view. Next we were hungry, so we walked down to the city center. We ate Venezuelan style empanadas and drank a Colombian beer at a little cafe next to the Cali River. Then we went to see El Gato Del Rio by Colombian artist Hernando Tejada — right down the street from the cafe. Next to it was a pathway lined with numerous other cats decorated by different artists. It was a nice spot by the river next to cafes and restaurants. There were a decent number of people there too.
Afterwards we decided to pick up some groceries to take back to the place we were staying at. We walked to the nearest grocery store and picked up a few things. The store didn’t have bags, but there was an area near the exit where they put all the boxes that they unpacked that used to carry goods. We were able to get one of the boxes and put our things in it and carry it out to wait for our Uber. Now at this point, it is rush hour. Everyone is trying to get home from work. We usually don’t keep track of these sorts of details anymore because we don’t work at 9–5 office jobs. Unfortunately for us, not only did it take forever for the Uber to arrive, it took an hour and a half to go less than 10 miles back to the place we were staying. The directions that the driver was following had us going in circles and going through places that no longer had vehicle access. The confused GPS combined with rush hour traffic was intense. The driver stopped a few times to ask for directions from people chilling on the side of the road. It was actually very cool watching them interact. People here are so friendly. When we finally got back to our place, we were totally pooped. Eventually, the cool lady that lives there returned and we had dinner together and hung out on the balcony deep talking and enjoying each others company.
Our grandma sensei took us to her secret paradise finca up in the mountains. It was built by her dad and brother. Her dad was an architect. Her brother: a civil engineer. We packed some snacks, our swim suits, and some beers and made the journey up the mountain to her family’s slice of paradise. We hopped into her yellow adventure-mobile and along the way, we ran into cows!
When we finally made it up to the finca, it was like walking into a Colombian wonderland. Especially considering how great she is with plants. It was so inspiring being there. It felt so good to be alive in that place. There was a swimming pool too. We swam, we drank, and we watched the birds around us partake in the paradise.
The three of us worked out together in the morning and then headed to Plaza de Mercado Alameda. It was intense. It was the greatest market so far. There were so many fruits and vegetables that we had never seen or heard of before. There was fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, and all sorts of goodies! Such beautiful bounties! We were pretty hungry at this point, but luckily there were tons of restaurant options around. We ate and then we did some shopping for cool fruits for us to try and ingredients for us to cook with.
Later that night we decided to go and party! Cali is the salsa capital of the world, so we had to see it for ourselves. The night life definitely lived up to its name. The first place we went to was called La Topa Tolondra Nightclub. It was packed from wall to wall. Every person in there was salsa dancing like their life depended on it. It was so organized and so intense that we felt a bit intimidated by their power. The place is huge too. It is like multiple dance halls are all attached to each other. There were multiple aisles of dancing and multiple balconies of dancing.
Next we went to a rooftop terrace club called Espacio 10–60. Theoretically, it is walking distance, but we took an Uber because it was really dark and late at night. When we got there, we made the journey up to the top floor where things were seriously packed and full of energy — just like in the last club we were in. There is an interior space packed with people dancing. The lights were incredible. It was like a light show. The DJ was playing a variety of music, not just salsa. The bar was absolutely cool. The drinks they served were artfully crafted. The group behind the bar was beautifully diverse. Outside on the rooftop terrace, there was a beautiful view. It was packed with people chilling, talking, and smoking. Everyone had such good vibes.
Exploring The City
We took an Uber to Museo de la Salsa Jairo Varela. It overlooks a nice spacious plaza that has a sculpture that spells “Niche.” We ate almuerzo at Terraview — Restaurante & Bar next to the museum. It was perfect timing because the museum didn’t open until 2pm. We had plenty of time to eat, overlook the city, and relax before checking out the museum. Once it opened, we were able to walk around freely and look at the exhibit. It was very simple, small, and well put together. Museums tend to get very long and it becomes work to finish exploring everything, but this one was the perfect size.
Next we we continued our wandering into Parque Simón Bolívar Cali. We were told that there is a cool pedestrian road that runs parallel to the river. Once we found it, it was really great. A lot of artisans were selling their crafts, a lot of vendors were selling mango, and a lot of people were just walking around and hanging out. It is nearby a fine arts school, so a lot of really cool looking people were hanging around — including numberous LGBTQ+ couples.
We stopped by Bogotá Beer Company and we each had a pint of beer. While we drank, we watched the people walking by and noticed a really cute young lesbian couple. We decided to go up to them, chat for a bit, say hi, and follow them on instagram before taking the Uber back to where we were staying. Later that night, we had our last dinner in Cali together at a cool restaurant beside the river called El Obelisco. It was so romantic.
A big thank you to our new patron Katerina Smirnova! Also, shout-out to our existing patrons: Paul Sonifrank, Clint, Cecilia, Salomé Egas Molina, Zoe Tamara, Rachel D and Carlota. Thank you all so much for your support! Let’s keep spreading love around the world together! Don’t forget to check out our Patreon!